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Grinding axes detracts from providing real solutions

You know vested interests that have run this state into the ground are scared when they try to take advantage of a non-story created an opportunist to try to score cheap political points to distract the public from a threat to their power and privilege.

Originally on New Orleans’ WWL liberal Garland Robinette’s radio talk show, and then on this area’s balanced Pat Culverhouse program, local demographer and for-hire political consultant Elliott Stonecipher asserted that Republican state Rep. Mike Powell, his daughter Rachel, and Republican state Senate candidate Jay Murrell had done unpaid work for former Shreveport mayoral candidate Jerry Jones. The reporting he questioned according to state campaign finance records is one for $12,344.75 paid on Jun. 6, 2006 to CPL Media Marketing, run by former Shreveport Journal editor Carl Liberto.

But Liberto confirms that Rachel Powell was employed by him for this work. And did Stonecipher witness this transaction he claims was fradulent? No, he just “knew” of it. Jones himself can’t verify it, either. Not only does he say all three individuals including Rachel Powell were present when he discussed the matter, but obviously he knew it was for CPL because that’s how he reported it on his form. And it’s entirely reasonable that Rachel Powell, a recent college graduate relatively inexperienced in this field, would be accompanied by her father and family friend Murrell for assistance, as well as that Mike Powell and Murrell themselves provided advice to Jones (as they have many times for many Republican candidates in Caddo Parish) during his campaign. There’s simply nothing untoward about any of this.

Despite this, now Democrat state Sen. Robert Adley says he wants the matter referred to the Louisiana Board of Ethics regarding Mike Powell, who also serves as the Louisiana Republican Party’s counsel. One must wonder on what basis Adley can file a complaint about Mike Powell under the ethics law – after all, the Jones campaign would be the one on the hook for misreporting. Is Adley actually claiming Mike Powell took a bribe, money out of his daughter’s and Liberto’s pockets for some unfathomable purpose despite all evidence to the contrary?

So why did this non-story hit Gannett newspapers, and now, a year after the expenditure took place? The answer to the first question is it serves the varied interests of the reporter, John Hill, Stonecipher, and Adley (as a proxy for area and statewide Democrat interests).

Stonecipher (who in essence is accusing Mike Powell of some undefined ethical lapse) himself had a conflict with Powell when Powell served on the Caddo Parish School Board, concerning a friend of Stonecipher’s employed by the Board alleged to have behaved unethically the act of which may have involved Stonecipher (of which a caller to the Culverhouse show reminded the audience); thus, potentially motivating his wild remarks on this matter. Further, Stonecipher has a publicity-seeking tendency, often reflected in his remarks to the media about politics that, to those unlike Stonecipher who are formally trained in the area such as me, sometimes come across as goofy, if not outright counter-factual. Getting your name out in the compliant media, even if you don’t really know what you’re talking about, can’t be bad for his business – especially when you try to settle an old score and can impugn the reputation of one of your competitors (the liberal Democrat Liberto) in the process.

Hill, who I have known for over 15 years, is in the business of selling newspapers and who, in my opinion, in that time span regrettably has become more partisan in tone, probably saw this as something worthy of reporting – particularly because it is election season and one of the names involved, Murrell, is newly running for office. That’s where Adley comes in.

Adley is part of the good-old-boy elective structure of Bossier Parish, comprised of Democrats and Republicans-In-Name-Only – of whom the latter’s electoral leader and Adley ally, state Rep. Billy Montgomery, is an opponent of Murrell’s for the Senate. (Powell is unlikely to face any serious opposition for reelection this fall.) This band fears Montgomery’s loss, even more Murrell’s winning so anything, no matter how trumped up, that casts even indirect negative aspersions on Murrell those of Adley’s ilk will pursue. (Adley also may do this to distract voters from his attempts as a Senate leader this legislative session to defeat meaningful tax reductions – in a committee meeting he called the reduction of income tax rates “irresponsible” – despite a record state surplus).

There’s just no credibility to any of this, and Adley knows this (or obviously he’s not very bright). Opponents of Powell and Murrell want to manufacture an issue and to try to keep it alive, given the Board’s schedule, into September – a month before elections. It’s these kinds of things which reaffirm my own personal support for Murrell – we need to move away from petty, obfuscating, baseless political tactics and start talking real solutions that those of Adley’s stripes who are long on rhetoric have failed to provide for so many years.

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